ZESPRI releases new variety licences

Media Release - 15 June 2011

The world’s most successful horticulture marketer, ZESPRI Group Ltd, today announced the release of up to 400 hectares of new variety licences, to help meet strong future market demand for premium quality ZESPRI® Kiwifruit.

Up to 200 hectares of a sweet green variety, Green14, and up to 200 hectares of a gold variety, Gold3, both commercialised in June last year, will be licensed to be planted or grafted by growers over the next two seasons. This represents an increase of approximately 3 percent in the area of New Zealand land currently planted in kiwifruit.

The decision to licence more hectares follows an 11-year development programme by ZESPRI, in association with the New Zealand Government through Plant & Food Research and the Ministry of Science & Innovation, five years of on-orchard, storage, shipping and taste tests in New Zealand, Europe and Japan, and extensive work with growers and international customers.

ZESPRI Chief Executive Lain Jager said the licensing decisions were made in the context of market demand and industry growth targets, current learnings about each variety, and also the risks and impacts associated with Psa.

“New varieties provide the New Zealand kiwifruit industry with huge potential to energise and grow the category, and improve wealth for growers and the New Zealand economy. We’re anticipating strong future demand from both consumers and retail customers for a portfolio of premium-quality kiwifruit products, and our world-leading kiwifruit breeding programme is best placed globally to deliver that.

“Obviously, the industry is facing some uncertainty and challenges ahead with regards to the risks and impacts of Psa, and the decision to release further new variety licences was made in this context.

“We’ve just completed a series of meetings with growers around the country, where there was a clear signal of demand for kiwifruit licences, and clearly it will be up to growers to assess the risks and make decisions that suit their individual circumstances. We’ll be supporting that decision making process by providing extensive information about potential risks, and some growers may choose to wait until next season when we will have a clearer view of the Psa risk in particular.”

Mr Jager said the gold variety being released has outstanding production characteristics. “Growers tell us that Gold3 is a pleasure to grow and the lack of a beak means it handles well through the packing process. While it was originally thought to be an early extension to the GOLD selling window, Gold3 has also shown potential as a long-storing variety, so we’re continuing to assess that possibility. We’re conducting further storage research into Gold3 and another strong gold candidate, Gold9, and we’ll consider releasing more licences in February next year.”

The new, sweet green variety will attract new consumers to the green category given its characteristically sweeter taste. “Green14 is more challenging to grow but we anticipate that, with limited volumes, it will deliver growers a significantly higher return than ZESPRI® GREEN Kiwifruit, so will be attractive to growers wanting to diversify into a premium niche green offering.”

Mr Jager said ZESPRI’s kiwifruit breeding programme, in partnership with Plant & Food Research, currently has over 100,000 potential new seedlings, and is a key part of delivering to ZESPRI’s goal of tripling industry export revenues to $3 billion by 2025.

He said there was particular interest in red varieties and he expected that ZESPRI will be in a position to assess a red variety for commercialisation in June 2012.

“ZESPRI has a responsibility to its grower shareholders to ensure that new variety decisions are made with their commercial interests and the risks and impact of Psa in mind. That’s why we proceed with caution, by releasing controlled volumes of only the very best kiwifruit, following a hugely extensive trial process, and we involve growers in those decisions.”

Growers are being informed about the new variety decisions by phone and email messages, and during presentations at ZESPRI’s site at Mystery Creek Fieldays. A detailed pack of information will be posted to all growers on Monday 20 June.

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